It was almost like the old days – a child-free evening, tasting new wines, meeting new people and enjoying a little grown-up time. OK, we hadn’t actually left the house and the kids were just upstairs watching films, but it was almost the real thing, albeit in a lockdown type of way, complete with real wine to enjoy.

The event was one of excellent virtual wine tastings organised by Novel Wines, a Bath-based boutique wine supplier specialising in wines from across central and eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, South America and Canada, as well as a range of home-grown English wines.

One of Novel Wines’s great skills is sourcing amazing wines from across Eastern Europe, including the likes of Macedonia, Moldova and Slovakia. While under non-lockdown conditions, Novel regularly run wine tasting events in their shop on the Upper Bristol Road, these have now transfered to a virtual format and the result is a really enjoyable experience for grown-ups to enjoy.

The virtual wine tastings mean that you have three bottles of wine delivered to your house, then at a set time – ours was set for 8pm on a Friday evening – you log into a prearranged Zoom meeting with the others people taking part, all under the watchful and guidance of Novel’s own Ben Franks. Prices for the event vary from around £45 to up to £75 per household to take part.

This particular tasting focused on three Hungarian wines from Tokaj’s finest winemakers. These were a Demetervin Estate Furmint 2017, a SanzonTokaj Classic Furmint 2017 and a TR Muvek Furmint 2017, all delicious whites that I was promised even a red wine lover like me would appreciate.

Finding our more about the region where the wine is produced

Ben then introduced each wine in turn and talks about the area where it comes from and the characters who own the vineyards, before the tasting takes place. It’s really important to note here that you most certainly don’t need to be a wine buff to take part. I know what I like and that’s about it – the intricasies of the different types of grape, when and where they’re picked, and the production techniques used generally fly way above my head. With Ben’s guidance, however, this all becomes a fascinating backdrop to the wines we were about to taste.

We were joined over Zoom by five other households, all sharing comments and questions, alongside the commentary from Ben and images from his visits to the wine growers, showing the vineyards themselves, their locations and the production processes used by each.

What followed was a thoroughly enjoyable hour combining learning about the wines of Hungary, loads of good chatter and of course plenty of enjoying very decent wine indeed. No, we didn’t linger over bouquets or the legs of different wines, it was more about simply appreciating the flavours, understanding how they were produced and learning which dishes would suit each.

Best of all, this was a wonderful distraction from the ongoing challenges of lockdown, without the need to even leave home. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy a social event with friends and families – or complete strangers for that reason.

The hour shot past, leaving my wife and I far more open to the appeal of Hungarian white wine, keen to learn more and having enjoyed a break from the lockdown routine. There are three more virtual wine tastings due to take place over early March and I’ve certainly got my eyes on the one on Mediterranean reds on 17 March.

For more details and to book a place, click here